Leadership

The Chicago Zoological Society is uniquely positioned to expand our leadership role in conservation on a local, regional, national, and international level. Our approach to applied science and education has led to a history of significant programs that have directly benefited the conservation of wildlife and the natural world.

To maximize and sustain conservation impact, programs must integrate and apply scientific knowledge toward human action while leveraging cultural shifts through training, community engagement, strategic collaborations, and public policy involvement. The management team—along with the Board of Trustees of the Chicago Zoological Society—is accountable for leading CZS toward desired strategic outcomes that advance the institution.

Based on rigorous review and evaluation of the best available data and alternatives, our leadership team functions collaboratively in a trusting and respectful environment, passionately committed to the mission of inspiring conservation leadership by engaging people and communities with wildlife and nature.

Stuart D. Strahl, Ph.D., President and CEO
Stuart Strahl, Ph.D.

Dr. Stuart Strahl is a career conservationist with deep experience in applied science, restoration ecology, public policy, and not-for-profit management. Prior to arriving at CZS, Dr. Strahl led Audubon into national prominence as the acknowledged private-sector leader in the largest ecological restoration initiative in history, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

His prior positions include founding President/CEO of Audubon of Florida, Vice President and Everglades Conservation Director of the National Audubon Society, and Research Fellow and founding Director of Latin American Programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Dr. Strahl is dedicated to converting conservation into a mainstream public issue. He has worked extensively to develop lasting partnerships in the United States and Latin America, which have resulted in preservation of over 30 million acres of wildlife habitat and over $15 billion in conservation funding. He has broad experience in bringing together diverse interests around mainstream causes. He has served on various Boards of Directors, including the Society for Conservation Biology, the Everglades Foundation, and Vital Ground Foundation. Dr. Strahl is also well-versed in philanthropic support, having raised many millions of dollars in operational funding to support these initiatives.

Dr. Strahl received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Bates College, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and his Ph.D. in Biology from the State University of New York at Albany. He served for over 10 years as the founding Chair of the IUCN/SSC Specialist Group on the Avian Family Cracidae and on adjunct faculties of the University of Florida, State University of New York, Washington College, and elsewhere.

David Burns, Chief Financial Officer
Dave Burns

David Burns has over 25 years of finance and accounting experience in both the private and public sectors, most recently serving as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the Chicago Housing Authority. There, he was responsible for a team of 45 employees and a $1 billion operating budget.

David is a Certified Public Accountant and possesses a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Monmouth College. He has deep experience in finance and accounting, including budgeting, debt management, financial analysis and forecasting, implementation of systems and controls, working with auditors, legal counsel, external organizations, collective bargaining, strategic planning, capital construction, and much more.

Cindy Zeigler, Chief Advancement Officer
Cindy Zeigler

Cindy Zeigler is a seasoned career professional with more than 32 years of diverse experience in development and fundraising, marketing, and overall institutional management.

For 13 years, she was a partner in Zeigler and Zeigler, working on a consulting basis with such organizations as National Audubon Society/Audubon of Florida, The Center for Orangutan and Chimpanzee Conservation, The Cullen Vivarium, The Trout Lake Nature Center, The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, The Humane Society of Marion County, and the Turtle Survival Alliance.

Prior to her work as a consultant, she held positions as Deputy Director of the Zoological Society of Florida at Miami’s Metro Zoo, overseeing development, membership, special events, marketing, finance, Board development, gift concessions, and capital projects; as Executive Director of Miami’s Parrot Jungle and Gardens, responsible for the management and development of the attraction; and as Assistant Director for the State of Florida for CARE International, responsible for fundraising, marketing, media development, and direct mail.

William Zeigler, Senior Vice President of Animal Programs
Bill Zeigler

Bill Zeigler is a nationally recognized expert in project innovation and animal management of zoological parks, wildlife/education centers and species survival programs, committed to wildlife conservation and animal care and welfare. He is recognized in the zoo and aquarium world for his innovative ideas and management skills that enhance institutional operations and animal-related programs.

His career began as a keeper at the Crandon Park Zoo, where he quickly assumed a leadership role in the zoo’s design, construction, relocation and transformation into a new, 760-acre Miami Metrozoo in Dade County, Florida (now called Zoo Miami). He served as the zoo’s General Curator, and held a number of leadership positions in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) including on the Wildlife Conservation Management Committee (WCMC). He founded several Taxonomic Advisory Groups (TAGs) and Species Survival Plans (SSPs) and is an experienced leader in developing in-situ and ex-situ wildlife conservation and research programs.

In 1996, he joined Ogden Entertainment and managed every aspect of multiple facilities – including Design Development, animal collection and management programming, and business operations. Thereafter, he worked 12 years as an independent consultant for institutions and organizations globally seeking to improve their operations and programs, including fundraising, board development, master planning, exhibit design, public relations and collection planning.

In 2010, he joined the Chicago Zoological Society, where he oversees all aspects of animal care and management as the Senior Vice President of Animal Programs. He continues to develop and enhance Brookfield Zoo’s Center for the Science of Animal Welfare (CSAW), elevating the organization’s animal programs to a leadership role in the zoological profession.

Sarah Breen Bartecki, Senior Vice President,Conservation Programs, Research, and Funding


Sarah Breen Bartecki has more than 25 years’ experience in nonprofit management, strategic planning, fundraising, program development, and financial analysis.

Sarah received a Bachelor in Arts degree from Northwestern University and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business, with concentrations in general management and managerial and organizational behavior.

Prior to joining the Chicago Zoological Society, Sarah worked at the Chicago Botanic Garden. She is a dedicated conservationist with a passion for inspiring young people, engaging diverse voices in conservation, and restoring biodiversity and people’s connection to wildlife and nature.

Jennifer Baader, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs

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Jennifer Baader is an experienced and effective advocate for environmental issues at the local, state and federal levels.

Jennifer received her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Illinois and earned her Juris Doctorate at Chicago-Kent College of Law with a Certificate in Environmental and Energy Law. She has held prior positions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 office, the Chicago Park District, Openlands and the Illinois Pollution Control Board. A passion for environmental law led Jennifer to the Illinois House of Representatives as Assistant Counsel. In that position, she addressed emerging public policy issues as the lead counsel to the environment, energy, public utilities, mass transit and local government committees. Most recently, Jennifer also guided a global corporation’s international partnerships, as well as their advocacy efforts before Congress in Washington D.C. and locally.

Sandi Dornhecker, Senior Vice President of Human Resources


Sandi Dornhecker is an experienced Human Resources leader with over 25 years’ of HR experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. She has a passion for animals and conservation, which led her to her dream job at Brookfield Zoo.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from National Louis University and has completed graduate work towards an M.B.A. degree in Human Resources. Sandi directs the human resources function for the Chicago Zoological Society for a workforce of roughly 345 full-time and several hundred seasonal and part-time employees. She is responsible for strategic HR planning; recruitment, placement, and orientation; compensation and benefits; employee and labor relations; policy development and interpretation; Human Resource Information Systems; staff training and development; legal compliance; organizational development and change management.

Prior to her work at Brookfield Zoo, she worked as the Director of Human Resources for the Illinois Cancer Center, a non-profit cancer research consortium of university medical centers, teaching schools, and hospitals in Illinois. She has also held various other management and administrative positions in the corporate sector earlier in her career.

She is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Society for Young American Professionals, and she has been listed in Marquis’ Who’s Who since 1998. She received the Kelly Award of Excellence, among other awards. In 2000, she co-founded the Chicago Metropolitan HR Cultural Group, a professional group of top HR officers and professionals representing major Chicagoland cultural and non-profit organizations. She has consulted for a variety of organizations and served as a presenter and trainer for colleges and community and professional groups.

Membership

Center for the Science of Animal Welfare

Read about our innovative practices in animal welfare to ensure the ultimate care of our individual animals.

Classes and Camps

Center for Conservation Leadership

We place a high priority on developing and supporting conservation leaders of all ages and backgrounds.

Membership

Visit Brookfield Zoo

Create extraordinary connections with animals and nature!

Zoo Animals